Philippians 1:3-8  ESV

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

We introduced the letter, or epistle, to the Philippians last week and made mention that it is an epistle of joy.  About 17 times the word rejoice, and joy is used. The Apostle Paul is truly the “Apostle of Joy” and that is seen clearly in the next section of our ongoing study of Philippians.  Let’s read in Philippians 1, verses 3-8:

Here you can sense the heart of Paul.  He has warm affections for the saints at Philippi.

In this letter, he simply tells them to “rejoice”.   Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”    This kind of joy is not found in circumstances.  It’s not linked to what you have,  or where you are, or what you’ve become.  It’s a gift from God.   We borrow a definition from John Macarthur who has stated that “Joy is a gift from God to those who believe the gospel, being produced by the Holy Spirit, as believers receive and obey the Word, mixed with trials, setting their hope on future glory.”[1]   That’s a good definition.   Joy is not produced by events, and favorable circumstances.  Joy is not produced by man, but it comes from the Holy Spirit.  The fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace…”  Gal. 5:22

In a Roman prison cell, the Apostle Paul finds reasons to be joyful.  Aided by the Holy Spirit Paul considers the Philippian Believers and rejoices.

In vv.3-8  we can see reasons for Paul’s joy…

  1. The Joy of Prayer — vv.3-4

Paul gives thanks to God…

  1. a) My God — He doesn’t speak of God in a generic way….  In the greetings….Our Father…..  now he is very specific….Very personal  “my God”….let me suggest something here…

v.3  “my remembrance”     “my prayer”    v.7    “my heart”     “my imprisonment”

v.8     “my witness”      v.9   “my prayer”

v.12  what has happened to me      v.13  my imprisonment is for Christ

v.14  my imprisonment     v.19  my deliverance      v.20  my body

2:2  my joy

Here’s the key to Paul’s rejoicing….  He knew God in a personal way…

To Paul…. God wasn’t just God…  To Paul… God is  my God…

Paul is saying….all these things are happening to ME…  it’s real, it’s personal…

And just knowing an impersonal God is NOT enough…

Don’t take Paul wrong….  It’s not all about Paul…. 

  1. b) Remembrance of YOU 3  I thank my God in all my remembrance….

Paul gave thanks for the Philippian believers…   Seldom did Paul thank God for THINGS;  He gave thanks for PEOPLE…

HOW MANY???    V.4   “all of you”      thank God for ALL of THEM !

(1) Paul was thankful for People regardless of conflicts in the church—     did conflict exist in the Philippian church?    See 4:2-3      The church is not perfect….Christians are not perfect;     If we are waiting to see perfection  BEFORE we are thankful then we’ll be waiting a long time.  God is STILL WORKING ON US>.. the work of sanctification is a long process….   Paul spoke of others who proclaimed Christ and at the same time they misrepresented Paul;  the took Paul wrong;  telling others that Paul was in prison for doing something wrong…    PAUL prayed for ALL of THEM….   How we need to learn from this Apostle of Joy!         If Christian would truly pray for one another,  many problems in a church would vanish.

(2) Paul was thankful regardless of his imprisonment.     You don’t read of Paul saying things like…  if only I had a better conditions;  if only I had a way to GET OUT of this horrible place;   If only I wasn’t in shackles….   NOTHING LIKE THIS COMES FROM PAUL…     This is what we must learn from Paul.   JOY is Jesus plus nothing else…

YOU CAN  have   the best place to live;   the best people in your life;   the best job  with the best paying income;  and NOT have JESUS…and you will still want MORE…

BUT    if you have NOTHING but Jesus… you have all that you NEED for JOY!


The key to Paul’s joy…  is prayer

He constantly went before the Lord…

He wasn’t’ able  to go to the place of prayer……where the Philippians believers gathered regularly..

THERE in prison….  God was there…. To Paul…God was  MY God…


Lesson for us:    to know joy… pray more… pray for others…  be thankful for all of God’s people…


  1. Joy of Partnership v.5


Do you remember how the church got started?   We read this in Acts 16. Paul was accompanied with Luke, Silas and he picks up Timothy along the way.  They came to Philippi and found at a riverside women who had come to pray.  One of the women, Lydia, a seller of purple goods, and a worshiper of God, paid attention to the teaching of Paul. The Lord opened her heart resulting in her conversion and baptism along with her household. The first convert in Europe and the first church was planted there in her home.  Then we read how Paul and Silas went to a prayer meeting and as they were going  Paul cast a demon out of a slave girl. This disrupted one man’s enterprise business because he used the slave girl in the business of fortune-telling.  He got mad and had Paul and Silas beaten up and thrown into prison.  At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God and the prisoners heard them.  Suddenly, there was a great earthquake, the foundations of the prison were shaken, all the doors were opened and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.  The jailor woke up drew his sword with intentions of killing himself because if the prisoners escaped that meant his certain death.  Paul said “do not harm yourself, we are all here.”   The Jailor fell before Paul and asked,  “sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Paul responds,  “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  That jailor was saved.  He washed the wounds of Paul and Silas, and he was baptized along with his family.

That was the beginning of the church at Philippi.  It happened on Paul’s second missionary journey.  He spent some time there and later returned for a brief visit according to Acts 20:6.

Now it’s 10 years later.  Paul is in a Roman prison for preaching the gospel.

Yes–  Paul is IN PRISON….  But according to v.5 —  the partnership between Paul and the Philippians Believers is NOT OVER.     It still exist….

v.12…what has happened to me…..advance the gospel….

4:12-16  It was kind of you to share my trouble.    They supported Paul…sent Epaphroditus (2:25)


Paul—we are in a  PARTNERSHIP….  V.5   or fellowship,  or participation….

v.5  partnership in WHAT ????       in the gospel       “gospel” used often in chapt 1


This joint partnership ….seen in 3 ways:

1)   The Philippians provided  financial assistance and personal care….

2)   Suffering alongside one another and encouraging one another….

3)   Praying for one another    see 1:19  “your prayers….”

This GAVE PAUL   joy…   first in prayer…his connection with Christ…

And  the partners standing with him for the gospel….


  1. JOY of Anticipation v.6

Good work – in the individual Christian

Good work –  in the total body of Christ     (upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it)

There’s NO StOPPING  the  GRACE of God….     What God starts….he finishes…..

We have unfinished projects….  Something we started to work on…   yet to be DONE…

See unfinished buildings….  Unfinished roads and bridges….


  1. God started the work
  2. God continues the work
  3. God completes the work

Look at Phil 2:12-13     (God’s sovereignty in salvation…no excuse to be lazy)

Kent Hughes – makes this statement  about  his confidence in God.

“As I reflect on my fifty years in Christ it is indeed God who has kept me. It is not my grip on God that has made the difference, but his grip on me.  I am not confident in my goodness. I am not confident in my character. I am not confident in my history. I am not confident in my “reverend” persona.  I am not confident in my perseverance. But I am confident in God.”

We have assurance in Salvation because of God’s Work!

John 1:13   John 10:27-29       Romans 8:29-30

  1. Joy of Affection vv.7-8


It is right for me to feel this way…    referring back to v.6    God is at work in them…will finish….the good work…


WHY?    BECAUSE you are all partakers with me of grace….refers back to v.5   “same word used”

His affections ——not just words…   I hold you in my heart….   Deep emotions…


I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace….

The King James version says   “ye all are partakers of my grace”;  but the more literal reading is “you are all partakers with me of grace”;    There is a difference.   It’s not that the believers were benefiting from the grace that was coming to Paul,  as they were benefiting from grace itself.  Sure, they benefitted from Paul as God blessed Paul with grace.     God gave Paul grace to teach,  grace to understand great truths,  grace to endure much suffering, grace to stand before kings and governors,  grace to look death in the face,  grace to be bold.   That same grace was being experienced by the believers at Philippi.  This caused Paul to say,   I have you in my heart, or I hold you in my heart.


V.8   God is my witness…    you might not think this of Paul…   highly intelligent…  very academic…  the great Apostle Paul….one who was priviledge… have visions…receive revelations….

YET….  I long for you all…..   with the affections of Christ Jesus

To Paul…it wasn’t’ just   business as usual….    It wasn’t just being the Apostle and going about fulfilling his duties ….he had personal feelings…deep feelings….

The compassion for them… like the compassion of Jesus…

Paul writes this letter…this epistle of joy…   to encourage them…in spite of all that he was going through, there are GOOD reasons to be Joyful!


[1] Philippians (see, first sermon “Epistle of Joy”  50-1